Along with the flourishing market for generic drugs, the projected transformation of the Japanese pharma industry will be driven by the increased use of biosimilars that are expected to be the fastest growing sector in the future, with a variety of products currently under development. As many drug patents expire in the near future, Japanese companies are forced to adapt to a changing market environment.
The Japanese pharma industry remains, however, one of the largest, after the U.S. and China, with a share of approximately seven percent of the world market. While the market in Japan is subjected to a transformation, it offers a variety of opportunities and potential for growth. The aging society and growing life expectancy have led to a high demand for medical treatment and will be a key driver for future developments.
Additionally, the Japanese government has been working to reduce long approval processes for new products faced by pharma companies, which will also have the positive effect of attracting foreign companies. Not only international companies seeking to invest in the Japanese market, but also growing pharmaceutical exports from Japan will help strengthening the pharma industry.
Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, pharma companies around the world are now attempting to produce medicines for the treatment or cure of the disease. Most of the financial commitment of the Japanese government was tailored to the development and testing of drugs rather than developing the vaccine domestically, according to the supplementary budget plan from April 2020.
The government asked the Fujifilm group (Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co., Ltd.) in February 2020 to increase the production of the drug Favipiravir, brand name Avigan, that was initially developed to treat Influenza in the hope that it would also be effective in treating COVID-19. Clinical trials with Avigan began in March 2020, and results are yet to be confirmed. Nichi-iko Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. increased the production of an anticoagulant drug Nafamostat, brand name Futhan, in May 2020. Clinical trials of how this drug impedes the SARS-CoV-2 virus from entering cells are ongoing.
Other drugs, such as Tocilizumab (brand name: Actemra) and Ivermectin (brand name: Stromectol), are also currently being investigated. Japan approved the antiviral drug Remdesivir (brand name: Veklury) as the first medicine for treating coronavirus patients on May 7.